It has been a long time coming, but digital television is just starting to take off in Australia. Most channels are broadcasting supplementary content in addition to their regular programming, with SBS and ABC leading the way. Many vendors are looking to capitalise on the boom by offering digital set-top boxes designed to convert these digital signals into a format that can be played back on the average TV.
- Good video quality, inexpensive HD support
- Some features require advanced knowledge
While the device offers clean, clear images for anybody looking to make the switch to digital television, a few slight glitches make it unsuitable for the mainstream.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Optima's DTRA10HD00 set-top box features silver and black trim and measures 39 x 26 x 8cm; easily allowing it to fit into just about any hi-fi cabinet. It's also relatively light, tipping the scales at a reasonable 2.4kg.
The front fascia offers menu, volume, channel change and "ok" buttons to drive navigation, while the rear panel houses all the cable attachments. RF antenna in and out connectors are provided as a standard, along with component, composite, S-video, VGA and DVI outputs. A S/PDIF digital audio adapter is also present, along with a serial port for performing firmware upgrades on the hardware.
The rear face includes a switch to toggle between 576i, 576p, 720p and 1080i output modes, and another to select between DVI, VGA and component destinations. While this sort of manual switching is fine for an advanced user, a novice may have some difficulties in selecting the appropriate output. What's more, this function should be driven from the remote control instead of the backplate, as changing settings could involve removing the device from a hi-fi cabinet.
The system is relatively quick to set up - it takes just takes just a few minutes to scan for channels, and the remote control and menu system combined to make navigation straightforward for anybody comfortable with new technology. However, it can be a little bit daunting for beginners and we didn't find the manual to be a tremendous help.
In operation, the DTRA10HD00 works extremely well, offering both 4:3 standard and 16:9 widescreen support and MPEG-2 HD/SD decoding. The device will automatically downmix 5.1 AC3 audio to two channel Dolby Prologic Surround sound for output through stereo speakers, and the audio quality is surprisingly good. 1080i / 720p / 576p video modes are available through both component and VGA outputs, while composite and S-video offer both PAL and NTSC formats. Teletext is also available, and the entire system is backed up by a one year warranty.
The Optima DTRA10HD00 represents good value for anybody looking to make the switch to digital television, but unfortunately the company is only currently making it available as a bundle with their plasma TVs.
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